Evidence

These uses have been tested in humans or animals.  Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven.  Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Key to grades

A
Strong scientific evidence for this use
B
Good scientific evidence for this use
C
Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D
Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work)
F
Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work)

Grading rationale

Evidence gradeCondition to which grade level applies
A

Bone density

Aging and diseases such as lupus (an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin and organs) and anorexia may cause bone loss. Evidence suggests that higher DHEA levels may be linked to higher bone density, particularly in women who have undergone menopause. Research reports that DHEA supplements may help increase bone density.
A

Depression

Most studies on the use of DHEA for depression support its use for this purpose. Recent research reports that high DHEA levels may be associated with successful treatment of major depression. Higher-quality, long-term studies are needed before firm conclusions can be made.
A

Weight loss

Most studies on the use of DHEA for fat or weight loss support its use for this purpose. 7-Keto, a product that contains DHEA, may help boost metabolism. However, more long-term research is needed before firm conclusions can be made.
B

Adrenal insufficiency

There is good evidence supporting the use of DHEA for adrenal insufficiency, a condition in which the adrenal glands do not make enough hormones. Studies suggest that DHEA may improve hormone levels, health, and quality of life in people with adrenal insufficiency. However, other research found a lack of effect of DHEA on depression symptoms or heart health. Additional research is needed in this area.
B

Lupus

DHEA levels are lower in women who have lupus (an autoimmune disorder that affects the skin and organs). DHEA may boost immune function. Several trials report that DHEA may lack an effect on SLE disease activity, though there is some evidence supporting its use in addition to regular treatment. Research suggests that DHEA may help improve symptoms of SLE. Additional research is needed in this area.
B

Sexual function / libido / erectile dysfunction

Research has demonstrated lower levels of DHEA in men with erectile dysfunction. DHEA supplementation may benefit people with decreased libido. However, high-quality studies have demonstrated inconsistent results regarding DHEA supplementation for improving sexual function, libido, and erectile dysfunction. Although research in this area is promising, additional well-designed studies are required.
C

Aging

DHEA levels may decrease with age. Early evidence in older adults suggests that DHEA may help protect against age-related declines in physical function. Research suggests that low levels of hormones such as DHEA may predict mortality (death) in older men; however, these data have been criticized. In another study, an association between DHEA levels and mental status was lacking. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

AIDS/HIV

Early research suggests lower DHEA levels may predict HIV progression. DHEA may benefit people who have HIV in terms of boosting the immune system and blocking disease reactivation. DHEA has been suggested as an alternative or additional therapy to regular treatment for HIV-1 infection. However, there is conflicting evidence. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Cervical cancer

Early evidence suggests that DHEA inserted into the vagina may benefit women with cervical cancer. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Chronic fatigue syndrome

There is some evidence that DHEA may improve symptoms of fatigue. Early studies report that DHEA may benefit people who have chronic fatigue syndrome. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

Preliminary results suggest that DHEA improves walking and lung function in people with COPD. Although this is promising, weaknesses in study design limit these findings. Further high-quality research is needed in this area.
C

Coronary artery disease

Research suggests that high DHEA levels may be associated with lower risk of clogged arteries. Other studies report that heart disease risk factors such as obesity, insulin resistance, and high cholesterol may improve with DHEA. Early evidence has also found that DHEA may improve blood vessel function, reduce chest pain, and prevent blood clots. However, consistent results are lacking in terms of the benefits of DHEA on cholesterol. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Diabetes

Low DHEA may be linked to diabetes, blood sugar problems, and insulin resistance. However, there is conflicting evidence. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Drug withdrawal

There is mixed evidence regarding the benefits of DHEA for people who are undergoing drug withdrawal from cocaine or heroin. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Fibromyalgia

Early evidence suggests that DHEA lacks benefit in people with fibromyalgia (chronic muscle pain and fatigue). Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Immune function

Several studies report that DHEA may boost immune function. Although it has not been well studied in humans, the available research notes that DHEA may enhance the immune system, particularly in old age. It may also benefit those with conditions such as lupus, asthma, hives, eczema, and pneumonia, and those with organ transplants. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Infertility

Early evidence suggests that DHEA may benefit people who have fertility problems, especially those with unsuccessful in vitro fertilization (IVF). However, it has been suggested that DHEA be used under the care of a qualified health professional. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Inflammatory bowel disease

Early evidence has found that DHEA may benefit people who have Crohn's disease, a condition that may cause diarrhea, stomach pain, and rectal bleeding. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Labor induction

Early evidence suggests that DHEA may shorten the length of labor. High-quality trials are needed to determine safety for the infant. Caution is advised because high androgen levels may have negative effects on pregnancy or a breastfeeding infant.
C

Menopause

Low levels of DHEA have been associated with impairments in sexual function, well-being, and cognitive performance of postmenopausal women. However, early evidence suggests that DHEA may lack benefit for women experiencing menopause. High-quality studies are needed in this area.
C

Miscarriage

Some research reports that DHEA supplementation may decrease the rate of miscarriage. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Myotonic dystrophy

Myotonic dystrophy (muscle wasting and weakness) may be linked to low DHEA levels. There is conflicting evidence in terms of DHEA use for treating this condition. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Partial androgen deficiency

Research suggests that a low dose of DHEA may affect symptoms of partial deficiency in androgens, a male sex hormone. DHEA may protect from age-related declines in hormonal functions. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Schizophrenia

Early evidence suggests that DHEA may benefit people who have schizophrenia. Some reports have found high DHEA levels in people with schizophrenia, while others found low levels. The effects of DHA alone are unclear. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Skin aging

Low DHEA levels have been linked to skin aging and low collagen production. Early research suggests that DHEA may be applied to the skin to help prevent skin aging. Additional research is needed in this area.
C

Vaginal atrophy

Early research reports that DHEA may benefit postmenopausal women who have vaginal atrophy (thinning, drying, and inflammation of the vaginal walls). DHEA may promote vaginal cell growth, reduce vaginal pH, and improve the occurrence of pain during sex. Additional research is needed in this area.
D

Cognitive disorders

Higher DHEA levels have been linked to better cognitive function (thinking), concentration, and working memory. However, evidence to support the use of DHEA for this purpose are lacking. Additional studies are warranted in this area.
D

Muscle strength

There is a lack of evidence to support the use of DHEA to improve muscle strength. Additional research is warranted in this area.
D

Psoriasis

Early evidence suggests that DHEA may lack benefit in people who have psoriasis (flaky, red skin patches and irritation). Additional well-designed studies are needed in this area.
D

Rheumatoid arthritis

Early evidence suggests that DHEA may lack benefit in people who have rheumatoid arthritis. Additional well-designed studies are needed in this area.
D

Sjögren's syndrome

Sjögren's syndrome is an autoimmune disorder characterized by dry eyes and mouth. Many women with Sjögren's syndrome are deficient in androgen (a male sex hormone) and have low DHEA levels. Although restoring DHEA levels may improve immune function and inflammation, evidence suggests a lack of effect on Sjögren's syndrome.

Uses based on tradition or theory

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

Addiction, adrenoleukodystrophy (a type of fat breakdown disorder), aggressive behavior, amenorrhea (lack of menstrual period), angioedema (swelling under the skin), anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral, anxiety, asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, bladder cancer, bladder control, breast cancer, burns, colon cancer, critical illness, diuretic, eczema, exercise performance, fetal development, flu, gum disease, heart failure, Huntington's disease, hypopituitarism (problems in pituitary production of hormones), lipodystrophy in HIV (fat metabolism disorder), liver protection, malaria, malnutrition, movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, nervous system function, osteoarthritis, ovarian disorders, pain, pancreatic cancer, Parkinson's disease, pneumonia, polycystic ovarian syndrome (sex hormone imbalance), pouchitis (inflammation of ileal pouch), prevention of restenosis after coronary angioplasty (PTCA, blood vessel narrowing), prostate cancer, pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in lung arteries), quality of life, radiation side effects, Raynaud's disease (lowered circulation causing discolored extremities), sepsis (deadly infection), skin graft healing, sleep apnea (breathing problems during sleep), stress (heat-induced), tetanus (nervous system infection), thymic regeneration (recovery of thymus from age-related size decrease), trauma, urticaria (hives), vascular disorders (blood vessel disorders), viral encephalitis (brain inflammation).

This evidence-based monograph was prepared by The Natural Standard Research Collaboration

www.naturalstandard.com